Here are some techniques to help you defeat your damaging behaviors:
1. Recognize-Before you can get rid of a harmful habit, you must first be able to recognize it Habits, by definition, are automatic patterns of behavior, which is why Campbell stresses the importance of mindfulness in day-to-day life. Turn your attention to your habits—the good and the bad. Figure out which behaviors you want to change and what challenges you’ll face while trying to overcome them. Whether you’re aiming to break out of a fast food rut or seeking to get a better handle on your temper, pre-planning and goal-setting are both effective methods of working towards an achievement like breaking a bad habit.
2. Visualize-Don’t dwell too long on the negative routine. Instead, figure out what positive habits you want to replace it with. Both Foreman and Campbell suggest swapping out damaging behaviors with healthier alternatives. For example, if you love to drink diet soda, try gradually replacing your daily bottles of pop with glasses of water. In your mind, picture yourself drinking the water, think about how good it will make you feel and how much healthier you’ll be as a result.
3. Affirm-An affirmation is essentially a verbalization of the goal you’re seeking and why it’s beneficial for you. In the diet soda example, some good affirmations might be: A healthy body is the key to leading a better life, I am treating my body with respect so that it will last me as I get older, etc.
Experts differ on their estimations of how long it takes to form a new habit. Some say it can happen in as little as three or four weeks, but some studies say that the road may be a little longer.
Consistency is the key to rapidly replacing damaging behaviors with healthy ones, according to Foreman.
A study published by the University College of London found that people who were trying to incorporate more healthy behaviors into their daily routines—eating an extra piece of fruit or going for a short run—required an average of 66 days of regular adherence to their new routines for them to become second-nature.
You may be able to shorten your healthy habit adoption time by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. “So many bad habits are socially accepted and people tend to want to ‘fit in’ rather than be healthy,” Campbell says, “Start hanging around with people that emulate and live out your desired new habit.”